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Production

Boundaries ... Dreams ... Beyond

Company

Raka Maitra

Reviewer

Stephanie Burridge

Date

28/03/2008

Time

8.00pm

Place

Guinness Theatre, The Substation

Rating

***1/2

Time After Time

Dancer-choreographer Raka Maitra spent many months excavating the essence of Odissi, one of the eight forms of classical Indian dance, and Boundaries ... Dreams ... Beyond is a mature realisation of this effort.

It was clear from the start, however, that Maitra was not working alone. Chan Man Loon, a multimedia artist, projected abstract images onto the stage floor in a precise square that filled most of the space. The swirls and lines of colour provided a moving image that enhanced the dance to such an extent that it would be hard to imagine it succeeding so well without it. Backed up by tight and effective lighting by Tommy Wong, Boundaries was a slick, polished performance.

Unfortunately the music by Philip Tan sometimes seemed at odds with the dance and I found Maitra's gold-trimmed costume distracting, both visually and in terms of the contemporary focus of the performance.

Odissi relies on clean lines of the arms, and every position emanates from a square stance with the feet wide apart and the knees bent. The dancer moves in a two-dimensional plane, recalling the dancing figures on ancient temple friezes.

In this new work, Maitra began sleeping in a corner of the floor before rising to circumnavigate the stage through a series of explorations initiated by precise arm movements - reaching forward, opening and closing them to begin anew. This sequence was punctuated by occasional lunges, spins and some rapid foot work that is another feature of Odissi. As she circled the stage with slow movements that could have been pruned somewhat, Tan's score included a deluge of rain that took the dance in an exciting direction.

From this point on we were transported into the realm of contemporary Indian dance. Maitra moved freely and succeeded in developing a new movement vocabulary that had grown from the traditional roots that bound the first section. As she "felt" the rain touch parts of her body, she moved fluidly and the dynamics shifted from the previously controlled, measured pace. She spun, waved her arms, used diagonal directions and filled the space as she leapt in delight and fell to the floor.

A spotlight lit a small square at the centre of the stage, and the dance concluded as she tentatively made her way into this square. At first she discovered this new light with some traditional hand gestures; then her face and whole body filled the square, and the dance ended. It was poetic and reflective on many levels - from the mesmerising progression of controlled steps to free movement, to the overall concept and the unity of the images captured by the collaborators in this production.

Maitra did not take the applause she deserved because a short theatre piece called The Blind Age, featuring performers Sreejith Ramanan and Sajeev Purushothama, immediately followed her exit from the stage. Though she appeared in it briefly at the end, it did not relate to her own performance. Age had some good ideas but really, had no place in this evening of dance.

Boundaries was a significant departure from classical Indian dance and shows why Maitra is involved in charting contemporary Indian dance in Singapore through events such as the Grey Festival. The complexity of this production may not seem a big step, but to those versed in Odissi and other classical Indian forms, Boundaries marked a giant leap for Maitra.


"Maitra moved freely and succeeded in developing a new movement vocabulary that had grown from the traditional roots that bound the first section. "

Credits

Choreographer and performer: Raka Maitra

Music: Philip Tan

Multimedia: Chan Man Loon

Vocals: Bhagya Murthy

Lighting designer: Tommy Wong

More Reviews by Stephanie Burridge

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.